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Your oasis in the Otavi mountains

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Rhino baby with swollen leg
  • Round wound slightly below the knee

    Round wound slightly below the knee. Photo: Ghaub

In mid-August, the "Rhino Patrol" of the Ghaub Nature Reserve raised the alarm. The female calf, born at the beginning of March, limped slightly to spare his right foreleg. Soon the rangers established the reason: A round wound slightly below the knee. Possibly the calf had rammed its leg into a pointed broken branch. Within a few days the leg swelled; obviously the wound had become infected. In the wild this would have been a clear death sentence.

The veterinarian Dr. Mark Jago, known for his vast experience with rhinoceroses, came to Ghaub beginning of September. He and the team of Ghaub had a risky mission. The calf had to be anaesthetised and then the cow had to be kept away from it – but not for too long, because otherwise she would consider it dead and turn away. Darting the rhino cow as well was out of the question, because in the process of awaking the animals instinctively start to run. In both cases it would be almost impossible to reunite cow and calf.

On top of that Dr. Jago had to be very careful with the dosage. Now and again the anaesthetic turns out to be too strong, causing the animal to die. Even for himself the mission was dangerous: A few drops of the anaesthetic on the skin can kill a man. Therefore, a helper was ready to inject the antidote immediately.

  • The swelling indicates a serious infection

    The swelling indicates a serious infection. Photo: Ghaub

After Dr. Jago darted the rhino baby with the tranquilliser gun and it laid down, a helper drove the car between cow and calf. Again and again she had to move the car forward and backward to block the way for the cow; more than once the rhino charged furiously toward the car, but fortunately it stopped just before the impact.

Other aides covered the head of the calf with a cloth and cooled the small body with water while Dr. Jago lanced the wound and cleaned it. In order to increase the chances of recovery, he delivered three different antibiotics, because it is hard to tell in advance which of the drugs will work.

Fortunately, everything went smoothly. After half an hour the calf awoke. However, it took one or two weeks before there was an indication of recovery: The swelling on the knee gradually diminished. Meanwhile, the calf is running well beside its mother; only now and then can you see that it still spares the leg a little.

The cave of adventure
  • Guide Urbanus Hoëseb with guest presenter Naledi Twahepa in the Ghaub cave

    Guide Urbanus Hoëseb with guest presenter Naledi Twahepa in the Ghaub cave. Photo: NBC

  • Cave adventure for students from Tsumeb

    Cave adventure for students from Tsumeb. Photo: Ghaub

"The crocodile!" – "The deep water hole!" – "The clay figures!" No doubt, there were conflicting opinions about the highlight of the tour. However, the young presenter of an NBC youth programme as well as the students from Tsumeb were in agreement about one point: Ghaub Cave is a cave of adventure...

Recently, Ghaub received unusual guests: A crew of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), who wanted to film a short episode for their popular youth programme "Sunshine Club", with a student from Grootfontein as a guest presenter. The shooting focused on the Ghaub Cave, which is a National Monument and is the third largest cave in Namibia (2.5 km long).

However, it was not about the facts, but about the adventure to descend into the depth and explore the passages, equipped with helmet and headlamp and hosted by our guide Urbanus Hoëseb. The twelve-year-old Naledi Twahepa was particularly enthusiastic about the "clay house", a cave room with damp clay. Visitors kneaded small figures, which over the years accumulated to a small gallery. NBC broadcast the nearly twelve minute film as a highlight of its "Sunshine Club" edition beginning of August and after that kindly made it available to Ghaub (here).

Shortly before, Ghaub welcomed 140 grade 8 students from Tsumeb. Two guides explored the cave with them in small groups. Most of the students voted for the “crocodile” (a jagged tongue of rock) and the deep hole with glassy water as highlights of the tour.

Guided tours for students are part of Ghaub‘s contribution to enthuse young Namibians with the nature of their country.

Good harvest at Ghaub
  • Maize harvest on Ghaub

    Maize harvest on Ghaub. Photo: Ghaub

Maize farmers in Namibia can look forward to a good yield this year. On Ghaub, too, the harvest was above average. The investment in seeds and machinery, the hard work and the immediate measures against caterpillars in February have paid off...

"On the first 100 hectares we harvested an average of 5.8 tons per hectare in June," explains maize farmer Hartmut Freyer, who is responsible for the fields on Ghaub. "The remaining 40 hectares, on which we planted later and will harvest by the end of July, are expected to raise the total cut to about 6 tonnes per hectare." This is due to sufficient and well-distributed rainfalls and the immediate counter-action to a caterpillar attack in February.

With a harvest of 840 tons and a price of 4,500 Namibia Dollar per ton, the income amounts to almost 3.8 million Namibia Dollar. "Unfortunately, this won’t make us rich," emphasizes Freyer, "because you need to subtract the expenditure on seeds, fertilizers, machinery, fuel and pesticides. Not to forget the reserves for coming years of bad harvest, when the revenue does not cover the costs."

In addition to the 140 hectares of maize on Ghaub, there are 40 hectares of sorghum and 120 hectares of hay for fodder production. For next year Hartmut Freyer plans to increase the area for maize to 200 hectares. He also intends to invest in new machines.

This year, Freyer estimates that the total maize production of Namibia is about 60,000 tonnes. However, the demand in the country is double as much. So as soon as the mills processed the harvest, they have to import additional maize from South Africa.

Little Etosha in the Otavi mountains
  • One of the ostriches at arrival at their new home

    One of the ostriches at arrival at their new home. Photo: Ghaub

The Ghaub Nature Reserve is evolving into a very diverse game paradise. Since the beginning of May, with a little luck guests can spot two further animal species, without which you cannot imagine the African bush savannah: Ostrich and giraffe.

In the first week of May three male and five female ostriches were released to the Ghaub Nature Reserve. The plains in the wide valley in the Otavi Mountains, with their grass and bush offers an ideal habitat.

Two weeks before, a transport with special containers arrived, equipped with particularly high walls because of their cargo: Twelve giraffes. These elegant giants of Africa were also living in this area before the founding of the mission station and the farm.

Thus, Ghaub continues its programme for reintroduction of game. Last year oryx antelopes and impalas as well as white rhinos were released. Ghaub is also home for species such as eland, red hartebeest, blesbok and kudu as well as klipspringer, duiker, damara dik-dik and warthog.

Guests can spot the animals on a Rhino Drive or a Rhino Tracking Tour, as well as from the hide at the waterhole near the swimming pool.

Ghaub fights against caterpillar from South America
  • Import from South America, spotted at Ghaub: Fall Army Worm

    Import from South America, spotted at Ghaub: Fall Army Worm. Photo: Ghaub

Just as good rains in Namibia promise a good maize harvest, bad news strike: A caterpillar plague threatens maize fields in the countries of southern Africa. At Ghaub the so-called Fall Army Worm was discovered, too. Now it was crucial to act swiftly...

"We noticed a strong attack by the Fall Army Worm in February," says maize farmer Hartmut Freyer, who is responsible for the fields on Ghaub. "You have to act quickly, because the life cycle from the caterpillar to the moth laying eggs takes only 21 days. We treated the fields with pesticides at the end of February and brought the infestation under control."

Depending on the wind, this moth can travel up to 1,200 kilometers within 30 hours. It originates from South America, was introduced to Central Africa and now also threatens countries in Southern Africa.

In the north of Namibia it was not the Fall Army Worm, but the indigenous "Bollworm", which destroyed the whole maize harvest on the government farming area Etunda (see reports in the Namibian on 23 January and 6 April). This type of caterpillar, gnawing on the tip of the corn cob, has now been sighted at Ghaub, too. However, according to Freyer it does not pose a great threat, because the corn is already in the process of ripening: It passed the “milk” and “flour” phases and the grains now begin to harden. The only risk might be rain, which could lead to fungal infestation at the spots that have been nibbled at.

At Ghaub maize is cultivated on 140 hectares, of which 32 hectares can be irrigated. The harvest is expected beginning of June. On a farm tour, guests of Ghaub Nature Reserve and Farm will learn more about cultivation, hay production, cattle breeding and game farming.

Two rhino babys born at Ghaub
  • The three-day-old calf busy suckling

    The three-day-old calf busy suckling. Photo: Ghaub

The rhinos settled in well since their arrival at Ghaub in March last year. The best proof of this is twofold offspring: Both cows in reproductive age have given birth to a baby. However, the small ones were already conceived 500 kilometers away near the International Airport east of Windhoek...

In early March the young cow gave birth to a heifer calf, and a few weeks later the older cow followed with a bull calf. Although the five rhinos which were released in March a year ago appeared to be feeling comfortable in their new surroundings already a few weeks after their arrival, the births now clearly show that Ghaub with its grassy plains is an ideal home for them.

White rhinos carry their young for 16 months. This means that the offspring were already conceived at the previous location: At Ondekaremba, the partner company of Ghaub at Hosea Kutako International Airport east of Namibia's capital Windhoek. It also indicates that the two carrying cows have coped well with the stress caused by the capture and the transport of approximately 500 kilometers.

Guests of Ghaub can experience the rhinos close up on a Rhino Drive and a Rhino Tracking Tour. However, for safety reasons and in order to spare the two cows and their calves unnecessary stress, in the first weeks the guides keep a much larger distance to the animals.